Obscure Indie Film: The Deadly Spawn

The Deadly Spawn is an oddball sci-fi/horror movie from 1983.  I hadn’t seen it myself until just recently.  I’d seen the poster and a few stills, but that’s all.  Fortunately, we live in the age of the internet and YouTube, hence my ability to watch it.

First, I’d like to make sure you realize this is a ‘B’ movie.  The entire budget of this film was a grand total of $25,000.  Yes, you read that right.  Of course, this was in 1983 dollars, but . . . that’s a shoestring budget.  To give you an idea, note that Night of the Living Dead’s budget was $114,000 in 1968 dollars, and that was a tight budget.  And Night didn’t have much in the way of special effects aside from some makeup effects.

Ignore my phallic shape and kiss me.

Second, the late, great Tim Hildebrandt is one of the film’s producers.  Yes, that Tim Hildebrandt.  Lord of the friggin’ Rings Tim Hildebrandt of the Brothers Hildebrandt.of The brothers responsible for most of the LOTR artwork for a couple of decades, not to mention the original poster art for Star Wars.  (Also note that the youngest protagonist and science fiction fanboy in the movie is Charles George Hildebrandt–Tim’s son.)

The Brothers Hildebrandt also did the artwork for the Deadly Spawn movie poster.  Which is pretty damn cool.

Last time I go to that dermatologist.

The plot is straightforward and familiar to any science fiction or horror movie nerd.  A meteor falls in the woods and is discovered by a couple of campers. The toothy spawn from inside the meteor make a quick meal of said campers.  The spawn takes up residence in a rural house’s basement and proceeds to start eating the inhabitants and visitors.  It also releases multiple tiny spawn with oversized teeth and jaws.  The spawn do what evil alien spawn are supposed to do–they try to eat everything they find.

This little piggy went to the SLAUGHTER!

The gore is both graphic and solidly done, especially considering the minuscule budget available.  Interspersing the graphic effects are several cutaway scenes involving what I kind only assume was a squirt gun with stage blood.  The main creature has some nicely overdone dental appendages of sinister design.  It’s no man in a rubber suit.  It’s accomplished with puppetry effects and judicious use of dark lighting, cutaways and close-ups.

The acting?  All I can say is that for a college production, the acting is decent.  Not exactly Shakespearean, but this isn’t exactly Othello, either.  I will say the acting is better than most of the SyFy Channel’s cheese movies.  Which admittedly, isn’t hard.

Feed me, Seymour!

I could go into more plot details, but honestly, you know everything you need to know.  Alien spawn picking off victims.  Deadly game of cat and mouse.  Plucky young protagonist figures out the spawn’s weakness.  Deadly vegetarian food party.  Don’t go in the basement.

Party on.  Go check it out.  It’s available on YouTube for free.  Enjoy.

*- Please note, there is a quasi “sequel” called Deadly Spawn II or Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor.  Apparently it has little to do with the first movie.  I have never seen it.

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A Good Lovecraft Film: Pontypool

pontypool-01Pontypool showed up on my radar screen a few years ago by accident.  It was recommended as a ‘zombie movie’–which isn’t entirely incorrect, but isn’t the whole story.  My expectations were fairly low since the movie screamed ‘Canadian Indie Film’.  As it turns out, this movie is layered in weirdness and is excellent.

The premise is straightforward.  The main character Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) drives to work at a local radio station on a snowy morning in Pontypool, Ontario.  Grant is a shock jock who has seen better days.  On his way in, a woman comes out of the dark and babbles incoherently before disappearing.  It’s nicely disconcerting and sets up the whole mood for the film. 

pontypool-02Grant’s day only gets weirder as strange events trickle in from the radio station’s reporter and listeners.  Pontypool does a great slow burn by using disembodied voices over the radio to paint a picture of something going horribly wrong.  The wrongness appears, at first, to be a standard zombie apocalypse.  Only after a creepy end to the ‘roving reporter’ does it become pontypool-03apparent that it’s nothing so mundane as walking dead men.

It’s hard to tell much about the nature of the ‘zombies’ without wandering into spoiler territory.  Suffice to say that their nature has an otherworldly creepiness to it.  They are a manifestation of something alien and hostile that invades language and minds.  That’s pontypool-04what makes it Lovecraftian.  H.P. would have enjoyed it.

Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) is the station manager who starts out getting pissed at Grant for his antics, only to later look upon him as a source of strength as the insanity grows.  Romantic chemistry between the two is low-key, but it works.  “Kill is kiss” is a great moment that highlights their pontypool-06attraction and a clever bit of deductive reasoning.

Again, I don’t want to give too much away.  The entire movie except for the opening scene of Grant driving to work occurs inside a single room.  Details of the disaster come at the audience through verbal presentation.  An ingenious–and effective–way of making the most of a small budget.  It’s doubly effective since what is happening escapes visual or rational explanation.

pontypool-05For those of you Lovecraft fans who haven’t seen it, the movie is on Netflix.  I recommend it unreservedly.  I discovered only while researching this that it is based on a book titled Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess, which I plan on reading at my earliest opportunity.

 

 

 

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